Unreal Nature

March 21, 2009

An Anchor, Not A Wheel

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 6:37 am

What if determinism requires free will?

In a response to a post on Dr. C’s blog (about the Libertarian postion on free will which is that we have free will and are not determined), I briefly mentioned the three other options:

free will with determinism
no free will and determinism
no free will with indeterminism

In the comment, I described that last one as “nonsensical” — because, off the top of my head, it seemed that if we lose both our will and determinism then all would be random and there would be no causation of any kind. As we seem to be obviously ensconced in causation of some kind, that seemed silly. We are logical beings. But, just because I had called it nonsensical, it became a Bluebeard’s door for me. Was it necessarily off the table? Why shouldn’t I have a look? Combine that with the trump card that those who don’t believe in free will can so easily play: the conundrum that says, if you have determinism, then you can’t have real free will and if you have indeterminism then all is random and . . . you can’t have free will. What else is there? — and I get interested in door number 4 even if it does seem “nonsensical.”

Set all that aside for a minute and indulge me in this thought experiment:

In my previous post, was a story about a misplaced embryo. It ended up, by mistake, in the wrong woman. Imagine that. Babies floating around ending up who knows where; maybe in their biological mother; maybe not. Now, also consider the recent news item about a clinic in Los Angeles that was offering to make “designer babies.” Never mind that the only choices available were eye color and hair color. Pretend that they could offer everything, buffet style.

You should now be imagining 1) babies not necessarily belonging to mothers and 2) individual babies made up of selected bits and pieces.

Suppose that two hundred years from now, there is the technology to take the human genome, put it in a blender and, from the pieces, build, at random, multiple babies. A prospective parent goes to the baby store and, from a hundred babies, picks out the one he or she wants. Most likely, he or she would pick one that was like himself or herself, but regardless, he or she would choose one for some causal reason. The babies are constructed randomly; the parents choose causally.

Now shrink that whole scenario down to be in your own mind right now. If the world is indeterministic — and there is a fair amount of evidence that suggests that it may be so at the micro level and even at the macro level in the sense of emergent properties — then the sensory input to one’s mind as well as the way that already-conformed thoughts surface to consciousness may be indeterministic. Your ideas (“babies”) are randomly generated out of the bits and pieces and because it’s in “your” mind, you assume that you are its “mother”; from them, you (the “parent”) choose the one that is “most like yourself,” i.e. suits your (causally generated, willfully deterministic) requirements.

What if free will is not about making free —  in the sense of uncaused — choices but about what its name says it’s about: free will. Will to hold a logically consistent deterministic line against an indeterminate world. To be a causally consistent being in a system where causal consistency is not naturally maintained.

An anchor, not a wheel.



1 Comment

  1. Designer babies. Hmmm. Calvin Klein was born in the wrong century. It is probably true that there are a few characteristics of humans which are caused by a single gene, e.g. eye color, Rh factor, and so forth. Most of the characteristics of interest to a parent at the buffet, particularly those concerning behavior, are so blindingly complex that it will be forever before we figure them out. Although we only have 20,000 coding genes (i.e. that code for proteins) we have loads of interstitial DNA that functions as binding sites for repressors and other controllers. I think, and we should all be thankful for this, that yours will always be a gedanken experiment. But that wasn’t your point, I don’t think.

    I would agree that the world is indeterministic on an atomic, sub atomic and quantum level. But on the macro level, you have to deal with statistical mechanics and your indeterminism gets averaged out to a predictable behavior. If we know the parameters, there is causal consistency. Maybe it is a question of whether we can know the parameters or not? The problem in chaos theory of where to start.

    Finally, I don’t think you have a choice “to will to hold a logically consistent deterministic line.” Because, you could not choose the opposite, i.e a logically inconsistent deterministic line.

    Dr. C. == Sophist

    Comment by Dr. C. — March 29, 2009 @ 6:01 pm

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